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Finnish | Suomi | [ˈsuɔmi]
So, what does Finnish sound like?
Would you like to hear a sample of someone speaking it? Click the play button to get an impression of how Slovene sounds. Listen closely to the text read by a native Finnish speaker and you will notice the many vowel sounds that distinguish this language from other European languages where consonants predominate.
The text we have chosen is a reading of the poem “Nocturne” by Eino Leino (1878-1926). Eino Leino was a journalist and critic who also wrote poems, novels, plays, and essays. He is also famous for his so-called “causeries” – newspaper articles he wrote under a pseudonym. Leino also translated the works of foreign authors into Finnish. He is regarded as one of Finland’s greatest writers. The poem “Nocturne” chosen for this audio sample was written by Leino in 1903. It was set to music for the first time in the 1960s.
Did you know…?
Did you know that enthusiasm for heavy metal is one of the main reasons that young people sign up for Finnish courses all over the world? According to a survey conducted by CIMO, the Center for International Mobility and Cooperation established by the Finnish Ministry of Education, the main reason for the surge in demand for Finnish as a foreign language – not only in Europe but also in the United States and South America – was the popularity of heavy-metal bands such as “Apocalyptica”, “Stratovarius”, “Lordi”, and “Nightwish”.
Up until the early 19th century, Finnish was regarded as a language of the poor and was only spoken by the lower classes. The educated upper class spoke Swedish, and many of them never even learned to speak Finnish. It wasn’t until 1863, under the reign of the Russian Tsar Alexander II, that Finnish finally gained official status as the country’s second official language, ranked equally with Swedish. Today, the number of Swedish native speakers in Finland represents barely 6 percent of the population.
FACT FILE Finnish
Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric family of languages. It is distantly related to Hungarian, and has much in common with Estonian. Around five million people speak Finnish as their native language – not all of whom live in Finland. Finnish is also spoken in Sweden, where it is recognized as a minority language, as well as in certain regions of Russia, Norway, and Estonia.
Finnish differs greatly from the Indo-European languages that are so widespread in Europe. For example, it uses far more vowels than most languages spoken in Europe. Examples include “maanantai” for Monday and “Maahanmuuttovirasto” for the immigration authorities. Moreover, Finnish belongs to the group of synthetic languages, as opposed to the analytic languages spoken elsewhere in Europe. This means that the grammatical relationship between words in Finnish is indicated by specific declinations and endings. For example, the basic word for “house” in Finnish is “talo”, which is declined as “talossa” if you want to say “in the house” or “taloon” to say “entering the house.” Non-native speakers of Finnish therefore have a lot to learn! Although it has no articles or genders, Finnish uses no less than 15 grammatical cases, which can make life difficult for learners.
The chief authority for the Finnish language is “Kielitoimisto”, the Finnish Language Office of the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland (Kotimaisten kielten keskus). This office is referred to colloquially as Kotus – in the plural because it includes Swedish, which is Finland’s second official language. The Finnish Language Office is responsible for recording new Finnish words and prescribing rules for their spelling and use.